Billy Connolly is most well known as a Scottish comedian, musician, presenter and actor. His first trade, in the early 1960s, was as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, but he gave it up towards the end of the decade to pursue a career as a folk singer in the Humblebums and subsequently as a soloist. In the early 1970s he made the transition from folk-singer with a comedic persona to full-fledged comedian, a role in which he continues. He also became an actor, and has appeared in high profile films, from Indecent Proposal (1993) to Mrs. Brown (1997), for which he was nominated for a BAFTA; The Last Samurai (2003) through to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), to name but a few.
2012 sees Connolly’s artistic expression take a new path, in the form of fine art. In 2007, on a dull, cold and rainy day in Montreal, Connolly happened upon an art shop, where the urge to create took hold.
Several hours and several Canadian dollars later, Connolly was back in his hotel room with a veritable smorgasbord of art supplies and a creative demon to exorcise.
Connolly began by sketching desert islands, one after the other, each island taking on its own characteristics and personality. "The fifth island, I noticed, was considerably better than the first one" Connolly recalls, the progression in such a short time frame excited him and he was keen to pursue his sketching. At every opportunity since, Connolly has sketched and drawn characters from his imagination. Taking it up with more gusto and passion in 2010, when he began to create the Born On A Rainy Day (referencing that cloudy day in Montreal) series, some of which we present to you today in Billy Connolly’s debut signed limited edition collection of fine art.
Connolly describes his artistic process as something of an enigma; something which he cannot explain but seemingly takes over him as he begins to create. "It bears no relation to comedy or music," says Connolly "my art is pure and un-judged, I am creating for myself, it is personal and private; whereas with a film, comedy show or music you expect people to be critiquing, watching, assessing. Art is different, it liberates you."
His process is similar to that of the Surrealist Automatism movement, whereby the artist allows the hand to move randomly across the paper or canvas, without an intent to create anything specifically.
Indeed, Connolly’s images seem to evolve as they are being created and he allows the image the freedom to become whatever it was destined to become. ‘Surreal' literally translating s as 'above reality' perfectly fits these creations. The images are, no doubt, very real and recognisable (a dog, an angel) but also seem to float out of all context as if in a dream or a memory.
Connolly’s art can also be likened to that of the cave paintings that originated in Aurignacian culture, possessing a charming simplicity, yet an extraordinary self-awareness and humanity. Connolly’s characters are faceless, completely anonymous; seemingly devoid of emotion or expression and yet, the emotional connection with the audience is quite prevalent. It is perhaps, the simplicity of these characters that allows the viewer to connect with them so deeply, there is nothing contrived or intended about this work. It is creativity in its purest form, it has come from a place inside the artist that is not concerned with an audience or showmanship, it is not driven by a reaction or approval; it is simply being, each drawing has taken its own path and begins to come alive as the viewer creates their own unique narrative.